customer journey

Big Company Tactics for Your Small Operation

Cannondale is a globally recognized bike company with huge distribution and approximately 300 different bike models at any one time.

The company’s designs are sleek, contemporary machines which provide speed and serious durability with intense frames covered in bold color palettes and graphics. The company has very specific messaging and a very specific audience.

This summer I was in conversation with a member of Canondale’s North American marketing team. I wanted to know how exactly does a globally established bike company promote itself in so many different markets? What’s the system?

Generally speaking, the process begins with new product releases, ongoing customer education and some strong industry entertainment (because a loyal Cannondale customer has been taught to expect that).

For example, each time Cannondale launches a new bike, the marketing cycle ‘begins again.’ Cannondale sales reps are sent into the field with new bikes + education for mechanics, distributors (stores) and consumers; media is alerted, influencers might receive an advance private release or test product and other Cannondale specialty teams are dedicated to participating in and hosting consumer events. Previous product campaigns may overlap or merge into the latest one, but a new bike = new promotion cycle. Meanwhile, the digital managers are overseeing traffic and pushing online sales.

The overarching strategies listed below (with the exception of the Party Bus - but even that can be morphed into your own mini-event) are opportunities any small, creative business can easily initiate with that little accessible thing we all love - sweat equity.

1) Data analytics and digital marketing

Cannondale wants to track from where (geographically) all traffic on their site is coming and hypothetically perform more promotion at those locations. The buyer’s actions on the Cannondale site can reveal patterns about consumer behavior, like what influences a purchase, how long a visitor is on the site before buying, or which pages are ineffective based on drop-off rates (bounce rate). This info in turn tells Cannondale more about their customer and the customer’s experience (also known as the UX or User Experience), plus inform Cannondale which other sites are driving traffic to the Cannondale site. This corner of the marketing will include PPC ads (Facebook pay per click ads, for example or Google Ad Words) or any other online paid advertising, the results of which can be tracked, profits recorded, and turned into data . Think weekly traffic reports, “content keyword integration” , trends analysis and an internal management database.

2) The bike bus

Cannondale shows up at industry events with demo bikes, tools and gear. They arrive at bike shows to promote new products and teach maintenance at bike shops where they know they’ll find a concentration of their consumers. The company is actively engaging outwardly via their determined distribution channels (the stores that sell the bikes, for example) and the bike company’s loyal consumers in order to create face to face engagement (very powerful for a business to consumer model). With mobile edu, Cannondale controls the dissemination of bike edu for maximum engagement and customer happiness.

3) Giving away merch

They give away a lot of bikes. The director for media communications has a give-away-bikes-budget. This budget is used to get bikes into the hands of media professionals who may test the bikes and then write about it. Hopefully the reviews are positive. Cannondale wouldn’t necessarily have a say over positive or negative feedback but editorial coverage from experts in the field builds a ton of credibility, especially when those experts are trusted by the consumer. The wholesale cost of a bike “gift” may cost less than a two page ad-spread in an industry publication.

4) Influencer RELATIONSHIPS

The Cannondale employees who drive the aforementioned Cannondale buses, are also aware of who’s who within inner-industry circles. Which cyclists have the best connections, the strongest knowledges bases and carry the most trust. Are these people talented athletes, brilliant mechanics, phenomenal sales reps? These people are noted by Cannondale as individuals who can participate in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe these friends will be alerted of early releases or new products before the general public and though this wasn’t said, they likely (should) receive a ton of free product like t-shirts, hats, socks, stickers, etc containing the Cannondale logo. Said products are hypothetically worn publically for brand recognition and influencers will (likely) pass along relevant information to their followers and friends.

5) Mobile PR

I mentioned the buses. Those buses carry bikes, tools, new products. Cannondale also has ‘party buses,’ vehicles outfitted to morph into a mobile bar equipped with music and maybe even a dance floor?

6) Hosting and Attending events

The person in charge of this often complex task is a logistics and partnership expert. Leveraging Cannondale’s assets for exposure and inclusion within the important events of industry partners, plus tactfully engaging the company’s target audience to show up and enjoy a Cannondale-event is a responsibility that falls on the person in this role.

7) Content Creation + Media placements

Ads. Commercials. Youtube vidoes, industry magazine ad-inserts. For a big company like Cannondale, multiple team members collaborate on the messaging and content of the video and ads. Then more people are responsible for placing the content into the correct channels (magazines, ad networks, youtube ads) for the right exposure to the right audience. The results of this are hard to calculate (easier now if the ads are online) but this process follows the rule of remaining omnipresent - anywhere your audience can see you, they should see you.

8) Merch (for sale)

Brand identity on the right hats, shirts, shoes, socks, accessories, tools, travel gear, etc is about communication (and style). What will the merch say, how is the brand represented and which items are sold sold/do the best? Like mentioned above, merchandise is about brand recognition and sales revenue. Bikes are Cannondale’s core product but like any company with a central line of revenue, they can generate additional sales by means of branded merchandise while simultaneously placing their brand in the hands of more people.

The Solution You Can't Find in a Google Search

Last week, via Instagram, I mentioned having lunch with an old friend and colleague from my days in New York. He’s an incredibly talented designer and painter.

And he works in marketing.

And not just any marketing. He’s the creative director for the digital campaigns of a global fashion company that sees over $100 million in annual revenue from digital sales alone (I so so so wish I could say the name of the co. but the company is extremely private and he asked I keep the name to myself when sharing stats).

But wait, what does ‘creative director for digital campaigns’ mean exactly? It means he signs off on all digital content that goes public representing this company. And his job is not just about making the work look visually appealing or just aligning with brand guidelines. It’s a lot more.

mit-technology-review-karina-napier-creative-marketing-agency-portland-maine

And that “more” is the kind of solution we all need to improve online campaigns, a solution you can’t find via a quick Google Search.

So first, a few numbers:

  • Digital ad-effectiveness of this co. ranges from a 2x - 10+ x return on investment. This means for every dollar the co. spends on say, a Facebook ad, they’re seeing 2 - 10+ dollars back.

  • Next: they earn about $100 million dollars annually from just digital campaigns. How does the co. know this to be true? They track where the customer comes from and what the customer purchased on the company’s site. This isn’t big brother spying, this is simply a way of seeing what source or channel sent the customer to this company’s site and if the customer bought anything, and if so, what. If the company is running Facebook ads, the marketing team wants to know if people are clicking on those Facebook ads, going to the site and buying something. This is called a ‘customer journey’ and it’s trackable without being creepy. Plus, learning what’s working by means of your marketing tools and what’s not, is critically important. Say you run 4 ads simultaneously - by tracking how many people click on each ad and observing where people go on your site via each ad, then documenting what the customer buys will teach you a lot about which ad ‘performs’ best.

And there’s another piece:

What happens when the Facebook ad(s) works - ie is enticing enough that people click on it and land on the company’s web page? The web page has to have enough relevant information, but not too much to get the customer to take the next step. That step is buying something and this is called a conversion. A conversion in marketing terms is act of transitioning a potential customer to a buying customer.

My friend participates in making sure the text on the company’s page, the buttons, the images - all the content - is approachable and actionable and speaks to the customer such that the customer’s decision to make a purchase is as easy and as attractive as possible. The UX (user interface) on the site must allow the customer to buy easily and quickly. Remember, you have about 30 seconds to grab the customer’s attention and about 2 minutes to keep it.

So yes, there’s a formula to getting the customer on your page and keeping their attention and then ‘converting’ the customer to buying. And this process does not have to be sneaky, slimy, or manipulative in any way.

If you’re still not convinced:

Think about this experience like a brick and mortar store: you want an eye catching window-shopping display so the customers want to come into the store (a captivating window display is in effect the equivalent to your online Facebook ad). After the customer enters the store, you want them to easily scan your merchandise to see what you offer. Stores spend a lot of time on attractive, accessible display. Your website needs to do this, too. The cash register is also very visible in a brick and mortar store. You want people to be able to pay easily in a physical store and online. And pricing - the most important part - the PRICING is visible and easy to read. This piece must be presented and presented immediately - especially online. People, my friend reminded me, shop by price (the amount of data he must have access to is mind boggling).

So your Facebook ad is your window display and your website as we may have all heard, is your online store front.

Biggest point:

How do you get the people to respond to the window display and come in and then buy something?

Test. You test and you test and test again.

Just as you would likely play with various arrangements in your store’s window display to see what people respond to most, you do this with your Facebook ad. Then just as you would inside a store, you move your merchandise around a bit to see what people buy most and put those items up front, so customers can see this opportunity right away and buy more of those items.

But you must test. The variables you can play with online:

  • photos in your facebook ads (think: if you sell textiles and your customer is used to seeing a lot of patterns, maybe use solid, bold colors in your ads so the images stand out).

  • copy in your facebook ads.

  • the text and position of the call to action (button) on the page where customers land from the Facebook ad.

  • placement of pricing on your website.

  • display of items for sale on your website.

  • quality of photos.

  • how many times must the customer have to click to reach the pricing after they landed on your site? Get these clicks down to as few clicks as possible. 1 is ideal. 3 should be the max.

  • scrolling - eliminate scrolling as much as possible.

  • desktop vs mobile. Remember, many of us are on our phones. Esp. Facebook users looking at your Facebook ad. Test the legibility of your information on both desktop and mobile.

And really, have fun with this. Take your time. Some ‘tests’ can last an entire month. Maybe the first month fails, but by month 6 you could be winning.